Are KFC’s chicken wings doing the Colonel proud?

Photo: Aimee Levitt

Today marks the second or maybe the third time in KFC’s 89-year history that it is selling fried chicken wings in the United States. How can this be? How can wings not be a permanent item on the KFC menu? It seems almost un-American! Or maybe not—maybe the American way is to get people to eat more drumsticks instead of those lousy little drumettes.

Anyway, chicken wings have arrived, permanently! And in celebration, GrubHub is delivering them for free! Let us all sing hallelujah.

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This time, KFC is attempting chicken wings with sauce. You can get your wings four ways, in ascending order of hotness: unsauced, Honey BBQ, Buffalo, and Nashville Hot. I would like to thank Fred, the counter employee at my local KFC, for giving me a single order of six wings with one wing in each of the flavors and two extra instead of making me buy four separate orders. I could hear the woman who was in the kitchen putting the order together yell “Whaaaaat?”, but Fred patiently explained that I was looking to sample all the flavors.

Left to right: unsauced, Honey BBQ, Buffalo, and Nashville Hot
Photo: Aimee Levitt

Evaluating these chicken wings should be a two-part process. There’s the wing, and then there’s the sauce. Or, to be more precise, the flavoring, because the Nashville Hot spices are part of the breading.

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The actual wings, I am sorry to say, are sub-par. They consist of more breading than chicken, and the breading falls off as soon as you take a bite. The breading itself is crunchy and bland, without a trace of the General’s Colonel’s signature blend of herbs and spices. I’m sure I would have loved it when I was a picky four-year-old and made it a point to eat breading instead of chicken whenever I could. Now that I’m an adult who eats junk food for a living, I would prefer a little more chicken instead of the stringy little mouthfuls of meat hidden inside that breading.

Unsauced, these wings are unremarkable. They taste like frozen wings from the supermarket. The sauces improve them quite a bit.

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My favorite of the three was the Buffalo, which had a nice, vinegar tang and some actual heat. It wasn’t as buttery as some other Buffalo sauces, but it was perfectly fine and tasted like what it presented itself to be. (It’s a whole lot better than the McDonald’s interpretation.) Nashville Hot was hot enough to linger in my mouth for a few minutes after tasting, though not enough to burn my tongue off. The spices in the breading definitely improve it. Honey BBQ is sweet without too much heat. It’s inoffensive, but I think it would get cloying very quickly.

As preparation for this great tasting, I looked up KFC’s offerings in China, where it has a huge and devoted following. They, of course, serve chicken wings. Reports claim that these are unbreaded and delicious. They also serve egg tarts. KFC, don’t you know you’ve got a great thing over there? Just bring it home, please!

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About the author

Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.